The rivalry between Marvel Comics and DC Comics has been raging for years and Stan Lee has said that Marvel would regularly troll DC back in the day, namely when Marvel began to outsell DC. The debate still carries to this day, fans taking the side of either DC or Marvel with hardly anyone sitting in between the two comic giants. The rivalry has only grown stronger since both now have cinematic universes, battling it out in the comic book stores as well as the worldwide box office stage.
The Hollywood Reporter recently uncovered an interview that Stan Lee did in 1977, back when he was only 55 years old and apparently still very cocky. Lee admitted that Marvel had a lot of fun at DC’s expense when the company started selling more comic books than DC in the mid 1960s. Lee explains.
“They’ve been trying to catch up. They’re doing the best they can, bless their little innocent hearts. We used to have a lot of fun with them when we started outselling them.”
In fact, Lee and other Marvel associates had friends over at DC and they found out that DC was convinced that the main reason that Marvel was outselling DC was due to the colors utilized on the covers of the comic books. Lee says that DC would hold large meetings to try and crack Marvel’s code. At one time they believed that it was due to the abundance of the color red on Marvel’s covers, so DC had to try out that red good luck charm. DC then started to use more of the color red on their covers. When Lee and Marvel found this out, they decided to have a little bit of fun at their rival’s expense. Lee says this.
“They studied our books, and they’d say, “You know, I noticed they use a lot of red on their covers. Maybe that’s it.” And they would start putting a lot of red on their covers. The minute we would learn of that, we would take all the red off our covers. And our books still sold better, and that would drive them crazy.”
It obviously was not the color red that was selling more comic books for Marvel, so they continued to study. And this time they discovered that Marvel was using quite a bit of dialogue bubbles, so they attempted to do the same and according to Lee, Marvel stopped using the bubbles all together on the covers. Lee went on to talk about what made Marvel stand out and sell more comic books when compared to DC. He says this.
“It never occurred to them that we take the work a little more seriously and maybe we have a little bit more of a sense of humor. And maybe people don’t like things that are a little bit stuffy. They like things that are whimsical or humorous.”
Stan Lee introduced a new type of superhero, a person or thing that was flawed and not perfect, which was a change at that point in the game. Before that, most superheroes were idealistically perfect people with no serious, lasting problems. Lee’s characters dealt with real-life problems and argued with each other. Lee also went out of the way to interact with his audience while making sure to credit everybody involved within a project, injecting regular news about the Marvel team into the comic books, leading fans of Marvel to feel a type of “friendship” with the company. Maybe the aforementioned changes to the comic book ushered in Marvel’s success in the mid 1960s, a theme that has followed to the MCU. Lee concluded his talk about DC Comics in the 1977 interview by asking the interviewer not to share his thoughts in a sarcastic way, check out that interview below and see for yourself.